Combining photographic imagery and text as storytelling symbols, both students created powerful messages meant to inspire thought and action.
To help spread their artwork to an extensive audience, Gigi’s and Alyssa’s posters—two of 30 winners out of more than 1,500 submitted—were projected on buildings in major cities, including Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., in the week before the inauguration of President Biden.
As she brainstormed for her poster, Gigi knew right away that she wanted to focus on pursuing justice for the planet. “I turned towards an environmental standpoint,” she says. “When we were working on the project, the fires in Colorado were pretty bad. I knew I wanted to incorporate that somehow, and I wanted to offset the flames and the haze with the other extreme of climate change.”
Alyssa struggled more to select her topic—with so many urgent needs and social movements happening in this moment. “But one day I stepped outside, and I could barely see 20 feet in front of me,” she says. “This mix of human activity and the climate was an issue that was directly affecting me and my community. My poster is meant to be simple and easily understood by virtually everyone—to show the juxtaposition between how our environment should look, versus the aftermaths of fires, air pollution, and carbon emissions.”
CA photography teacher Karen Donald is impressed by both students’ sophisticated choices of photography, graphic design, and text. “Gigi and Alyssa worked across multiple prototypes and responded to both teacher and peer feedback in class, so that they were able to create such highly resolved posters,” she says. “Competitions like these are so important, as they provide opportunities for students to see themselves as artists with a voice that should be heard.”
Gigi hopes the impact of her poster spreads awareness on a wider scale and reminds people that climate change isn’t just about hot weather. “Climate change doesn’t end when the weather turns cold again,” she says. “It’s about the rapid turnaround in temperature and unusual weather patterns.”
Gigi’s concern for the environment is evident in other aspects of her life as well. She reduces her carbon footprint by not eating red meat and avoiding dairy. She also volunteers and is active in Colorado Young Leaders, which is involved in projects around climate.
“Winning this award taught me that my voice matters,” Alyssa says. “The fact that this poster was projected across a few cities is still unreal to me. I also felt insignificant when it came to voicing my opinions about society, but this contest was essentially a wake-up call for me to get more involved with social issues that I believe need to be addressed and receive justice.
“A lot of the time, I feel small and that what I say has no effect to bring about change. But your voice matters, and the people around you will remember your words.”